Independent school located near Romsey, Hampshire. Romsey is small town in the lower Test valley, about 10 miles northwest of Southampton. Stanbridge Earls is a couple of miles further northwest. The school currently educates around 200 pupils, most of them male. I have included a brief history of the site as well as the school itself, which only celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2002.

The name Stanbridge Earls is derived from a local stone bridge 'Stanbridge' over the Test and the fact that the manor house (main house), was once the residence of Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. However, the estates history predates Mortimer as the school chapel is probably 9th century and perhaps older. It was the initial burial site for the Saxon King Ethelwulf, before his remains were exhumed and moved to Winchester Cathedral where they still lie today. Indeed, his ghost is said to haunt main house today as 'the monk', if you are inclined to believe the stories. The current manor was built around the chapel, though you can still see the old stone walls from the back of Stanbridge Earls main house.

In the nineteenth century Florence Nightingale is meant to have lived at Stanbridge. The last private owner of the estate was a publishing magnate called Hutchinson who owned it after WWII. He also used the current sports fields as his private airstrip. That was, before he committed suicide. The publishing business went under some time afterwards, although his name survives as in the 'Hutchinson's Encyclopaedia'. Following his death the estate came under control of the army, who built the cabins that are still being used as classrooms today (unfortunately). The estate was auctioned off and originally covered around 900 acres and fishing rights to the River Test, of which only 50 acres remains part of the school. The rest is now mainly farmland.

The school was founded in 1952 by a trust, which it remains, and in the first year there were only 8 pupils. From early archive photos it appeared as though the pupils had to grow their own food in the school gardens. (Well, at least they would have known where it came from). Since Stanbridge is relatively new as a school compared to places like Winchester College, or Eton, there were no ancient traditions to follow so the school had to invent some. These include the biannual Endurance Exercise and the sheep roast on the last night of the summer term. The latter has been sadly ignored by the current Headmaster.

The school as of current specialises in learning difficulties such as Dyslexia, although they won't call it a 'special school'. This is highlighted by the ALC, or Accelerated Learning Centre, which occupies several sites around the school, and most notably the octagon. It is effectively a wooden shack, as are all the other teaching buildings. At least the boarding accommodation is satisfying, and over 90% of the students board at the school. John Attlee House is the most modern of the boarding houses, whereas Main House itself is used for the youngest boys, although the school must now construct a new block to accommodate them, given that the listed main house building is both a fire risk and falling apart.

Having just graduated from Stanbridge Earls, I have first hand knowledge of the school as it is now. It may not be as famous as the aforementioned public schools, but you can still tell that someone went to Stanbridge fairly easily, and not because they spell their name incorrectly. The currently most famous former pupil is mockney director Guy Ritchie, now more famous as the spouse of Madonna. Whatever he may of said about being expelled from the school, it was his own decision to leave. A vaguely famous Wyvern (as we ex-pupils are known after the school insignia), would be hippy Jeremy Gilley, who dreamt up the idea of 'Peace One Day'.

As someone who spent seven years at Stanbridge Earls, I can say that I met a lot of 'interesting' people while making some firm friends. I probably learnt more than I realised, although there were still a few things that I was disappointed with such as the lack of a school-wide network, and the school meals! But then you could hardly expect cordon bleu.

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